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I recently opened my phone and was met with the all-too-familiar “Do you know this guy at UNC, I just met him” text from one of my friends. If I were less experienced with the art of gossip, I may have just ignored her. However, her asking allowed me to give her the all-clear — letting her know he is in fact not a creep — and she felt comfortable and safe enough to go on a date with him. 

The daily chitchat and conversations surrounding people’s everyday lives can encapsulate the college experience. Gossip is something we do every day, whether we realize it or not. It fuels walks to class, lunch meet-ups, coffee dates and so much more, and although it has a negative connotation, its not always bad.   

I am not arguing in favor of being malicious. It makes me uncomfortable and angry when people say unnecessary things like “Oh, she looks bad,” or “She’s really put some weight on.” There is generally no point or beneficial intent to those words. Gossip that could be life-damaging and isn't true is what gives it a bad reputation in the first place — in addition to its misogynistic roots. 

While it is near universal, gossip has historically been viewed as a predominantly feminine pastime. Society views gossip as a thing women do while at the nail salon, shopping or going on a walk. Therefore, condemnation of gossip is rooted in an underlying misogyny. However, men gossip just as much, but don't seem to be criticized for it.

Perhaps gossip has been inherently feminine — for a long time, it was one of the only ways for women to express their voice and exert their power. I’m not talking about neighborhood moms who spread gossip like wildfire or that one girl who will spread your business to anyone who will listen, but rather the idea of gossips that platform a largely prohibited voice.

One of the most influential movements of the 21st century and a huge step for feminism all started with a #MeToo tweet that could have been deemed gossip. Women had been sharing their stories of sexual assault and violence during supposedly meaningless gossip sessions for ages, yet those who spoke out publicly were often seen as liars spreading false information. Sharing stories and mentioning experiences that were and still are considered taboo is a way for women to communicate, connect with others and heal.

Robin Dunbar, a renowned anthropologist and psychologist, published a revolutionary book in 1996 titled “Grooming, Gossiping, and the Evolution of Language.” He discusses how gossip is part of social order and a way to connect a community together. Dunbar highlights how spreading valuable information and bonding through intriguing discussion is part of our inherent nature as humans.

It’s time we recognize the difference between negative and positive gossiping and stop condemning women who discuss their lives and relationships, or express genuine care and concern for their friend’s well-being in serious situations. Compassionate intent is there, gossip has just been demonized by society as a dishonorable and unimportant women’s activity.

Negative gossip with intentional malice and the spreading of false information is an entirely separate entity from gossiping as a discussion of your life occurrences. Intentional gossip can create a positive feedback loop of general concern for someone’s well-being or provide a voice for someone who could not otherwise speak up.

Society hasn’t always allowed women a platform to express ourselves. Reclaiming gossip as a tool can help form stronger communities and foster meaningful conversations.

@acperry

@dthopinion | opinion@dailytarheel.com

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